Questions linger over who will foot bill for West Stand work

The Irish Football Association is determined to have Windsor Park ready for June 13. Photo: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
The Irish Football Association is determined to have Windsor Park ready for June 13. Photo: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Questions continue to linger over who will foot the bill for the demolition and rebuild of Windsor Park’s West Stand.

It was confirmed yesterday that the stand – affectionately known as The Kop – will be pulled down.

It follows the discovery of structural damage three weeks ago.

The Irish FA has given guarantees all block bookers’ tickets will be honoured at the next Euro 2016 qualifier against Romania on June 13, and the game will be held at Windsor Park.

Chief executive Patrick Nelson also assured the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure at yesterday’s committee meeting, politicians would not foot the bill.

Stakeholders remain within budget with the current contract, but questions surround how any further or unanticipated works – namely the demolition and rebuild of The Kop – will be financed.

Replacing the roof and seats formed part of the original plans, however the demolition and complete stand rebuild were clearly never negotiated.

Martin Lennon, from engineers O’Hare McGovern, said: “The West Stand was always due for redevelopment, namely the roof and the seating, and the upgrade of that ground was always within the contract.

“Obviously now there are further contract works to be done, so we are committed to doing the works with the IFA.

“We are bringing the stand down and it is our intention to rebuild the stand.”

O’Hare McGovern, however, have not yet been appointed to reconstruct The Kop.

When pushed on the contract, Lennon reiterated their contractual position.

He said: “If we have to tender for it, we will tender for it. Our sole focus at the moment is to ensure the ground is safe for patrons entering the ground, and the game goes ahead in June, so we are working closely with the IFA to achieve that.

“If there are further works we have to discuss with the IFA, we will.

“The redevelopment of the full stand was always within our contract. There is some works which is outside that and may require further negotiations with the IFA.

“I am not getting into speculation of what it is going to cost, or what is going to happen in the future.”

Both the IFA and their engineers are confident the work will be complete in time for the match, yet there is no fixed timescale on when The Kop will be finished.

Meanwhile, new permanent seating for the Railway Stand, designed to accommodate fans for the Romania game, was in transit yesterday.

Lennon said: “It’s our intention to have the seating in place in time, and we are confident that will happen.

“It will have to pass health and safety checks, otherwise the game will not go ahead. We are 100 per cent confident it will pass them as we have gone through a number of games at this stadium.”

The IFA appeared before DCAL’s committee yesterday, after sports minister, Carál Ní Chuilín, called for assurances her department would not be picking up the tab for the West Stand demolition and reconstruction.

IFA chief Nelson said their existing contract will ensure the new stadium will be done within the agreed amount.

A hole behind the stand, dug to accommodate ongoing development of the Olympia Leisure Centre directly behind the stadium, has been linked with the damage, but Nelson says this has not been determined.

“We have an NEC3 contract which means it will be delivered within the agreed amount,” he added.

“Investigations, much of which have taken place already, are important and we will not be destroying any evidence so to speak, by demolishing the stand.

“But I cannot speculate now on how it was damaged. The Olympia and the stadium are two separate projects, with separate plans. I think no doubt the contractors will talk carefully about how to efficiently finish both projects, but I would be very surprised if it takes beyond a year.”